Ordination and presiding at Holy Communion: paper given at the 2019 Study Day, hosted by the Church Service Society and the Scottish Church Society

John McPake

The Revd Dr John McPake gave the fourth paper at the Study Day of 2019 which took place as contributory to the discussion which followed a report to the General Assembly of 2019 exploring the possibility of a new form of ministry of Word and Sacrament to support fresh expressions of being the church or where the scarcity of ordained ministers in scattered parishes reduced opportunities for Communion. The paper he gave was derived from this report, of which he was the principal author, and, being already in the public domain, was not printed in the Record with the other three. However, it may be found in the Report Book of that Assembly, at page 17 and a summary is given here. The report arose from discussion between the Panel on Review and Reform, the Theological Forum, the Committee on Ecumenical Relations. and the Legal Questions Committee. The report addresses the needs of new worshipping communities, arguing that Baptism and Holy Communion are no less necessary for their growth but that current patterns of the formation of ministers are not always appropriate for leading those communities. The report defined the place and importance of the Sacraments in the New Testament, the Early Church, at the Reformation, as well as in the present day, when they possessed a missional, pastoral and spiritual value; through them the grace of God is signified and the Word of God revealed. The report then restates the place of the ordained ministry, emphasising that it takes place within the ministry of the people of God and is not a possession of those ordained. This church is called into being by the Word in order that it might share in the new creation made possible by the Spirit. The relationship of Word and Sacrament is explored as is the nature of ordination, i.e. consisting of lawful election, fasting, prayer, and the imposition of hands by the ‘elderschippe’. The five marks of mission as outlined in the Church of England’s Mission-Shaped Church (2004) are summarised, commenting that it may be unreasonable to expect leaders of new worshipping communities to commit to the intensive training required of parish ministers. A possible new form of ministry of Word and Sacrament, shaped by the context of the emerging church, should be explored, faithful to the historic theology of the church in relation to the inseparability of Word and Sacrament.

Volume 54 2019